KUSA - Two Colorado brothers facing charges stemming from the massive listeria outbreak that killed more than 30 appear ready to plead guilty to federal charges as soon as next week.
Eric and Ryan Jensen, owners of the now-bankrupt Jensen Farms, both filed motions on Tuesday indicating they have reached plea agreements with federal prosecutors. The brothers will enter guilty pleas to undisclosed charges on Wednesday Oct. 22.
Federal prosecutors charged the brothers in September after years of investigating their role in the listeria outbreak that killed thirty three people in 2011.
Prosecutors believe health safety standards at Jensen Farms were so shoddy that they contributed to the nationwide outbreak and recall of Jensen Farms cantaloupe.
The brothers faced up to six years in prison. It's unclear what sentence is now possible under the plea agreements.
The Centers for Disease Control linked cantaloupe grown at Jensen Farms to the listeria outbreak in the fall of 2011. In October of that year, the FDA found that Jensen Farms' packing and storage facilities likely helped spread the listeria in such a way that directly contributed to the outbreak.
One piece of equipment, a used potato washing machine, was cited directly by the FDA as a possible cause of the outbreak. "Several areas on both the washing and drying equipment appeared to be un-cleanable, and dirt and product buildup was visible on some areas of the equipment," read the FDA report.
Criminal charges in food-contamination cases are rare. Prosecutors say they're pursuing this case because of the number of deaths.
It was the deadliest outbreak of foodborne illness in 25 years. The federal Centers for Disease Control say people in 28 states ate the fruit.
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